Put-in-Bay Ice Fishing Anyone?

Once again was a debate about whether to go forward with the annual Ice Fishing edition because of the open waters. As of this writing, the lake
temperature ranges from 37 to 38 degrees, which is a few degrees warmer than this time last year. Interestingly, about a week ago, I saw two small power boats launch from the downtown Put-in-Bay ramp presumably to go fishing, and why not? The air temperature was 60 degrees!

Ice or No Ice?

Will, there be sufficient ice for fishing this year is challenging to predict, but a prolonged cold snap could change everything. Every Put-in-Bay resident knows the risks of going out onto the ice. For those of us planning on venturing out (weather permitting), there are several things that we can do to mitigate many of those risks. The following safety tips are excerpts from the US Coast Guard’s “Ice Safety” guidelines as well as ice safety tips from the Ohio and Michigan departments of natural resources.

Put-in-Bay Ice Fishing Safety -Things to consider before going out

• Ice conditions vary across the lake. If you are new to ice fishing on Put In Bay, talk to knowledgeable locals about situations
and what areas to avoid.

• Always have ice claws or ice picks, which are available for purchase at most sporting oriented

• Inform a trusted adult where you will be going on the ice and the time to expect your return. Sharing your plans can help save your life if something does happen to you on the ice. (More on this later).

What you need to know about ice:

• You cannot tell the strength of ice only by its look, its thickness, the temperature, or whether or not it’s covered up by snow.

• The strongest ice is clear ice that has a bluish tint. Ice created by melted and refrozen snow will appear milked and is very weak and porous.

• You should always consider ice covered by snow unsafe. Snow creates an insulation blanket and slows down the freezing process. The snow under the snow will be weaker and thinner. A recent snowfall will also warm up and melt existing ice.

• If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.

• Be extremely careful in locations where the temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to melt during the day and freeze again in the evening resulting in a spongy, weak, and honeycombed ice that is unsafe.

• The DNR does not recommend or use the standard “inch-thickness” recommendations used by many anglers and snowmobilers to determine ice safety. You should use four inches of ice as a minimum number for safety. Ice seldom forms at a uniform rate, it is essential to check ice
thickness with a spud and ruler every few steps.

Venturing out on the ice:

• The DNR does not recommend taking a car or truck out onto the ice at any time.

• If you are walking out onto the ice with a group, avoid crossing ice in a single file.

• Never venture out alone without telling a responsible adult onshore your plans.

• Test ice thickness with an ice spud before you settle on a spot.

• If you are with a group, avoid gathering together in a place. Spread yourselves.

• Wear a life jacket and bright-colored clothing.

• Take a cell phone for emergency use.

• Look for large cracks or depressions in the ice and avoid those areas.

• Remember, ice does not form with uniform thickness on any body of water. Underwater springs and currents can wear thin spots on the ice.

If you fall through while Ice Fishing:

• Remain calm and do not panic.

• Do not remove your winter clothes! Heavy clothes will not drag you down and can help trap air to provide flotation and warmth. This is true even with a snowmobile-style suit.

• Rotate in the water toward the direction you traveled from – that is probably the most reliable ice.

•Dig the points of your ice picks into the ice and, while quickly kicking your feet. You can then pull yourself onto the surface of the ice by sliding forward.

• Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will spread your weight and help to avoid breaking through the ice again.

• Get to shelter, heat, dry clothing, and warm, non-alcoholic, and non-caffeinated drinks.

• Call 911 as soon as you can and seek proper medical attention. If you feel disoriented, have shivering that you cannot control, or have any other effects that may be hypothermia (a life-threatening drop in the body’s internal core temperature).

No Ice Is 100% Safe!

There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice! 4” of new clear ice is the minimum thickness for travel on foot. 5” is the minimum for snowmobiles and ATVs. 8”- 12” for cars or small trucks. I would also add. Know where you are on the lake, such as your proximity to a landmark. Better yet, know the coordinates. Along with your cell phone, also have a handheld marine radio and know how to use it. Choose a handheld that is waterproof and floats. The best idea (IMO) would be to purchase a personal locator beacon (PLB) and wear it while on the ice.

Those of you who are boaters will be familiar with the concept of a “Float Plan.” Below is what’s called an “Ice Plan.” Mostly they are the same thing. It contains vital information about you and your party should you not return as scheduled from your trip on the ice. The “Ice Plan” is left with a responsible party before your departure. Please clip it and save it for use when out. If you are unsure about the safety of the ice contact the Put-in-Bay Visitors & Convention Bureau for recommendations on an ice guide or Put-in-Bay Hotels to stay at.